My Brother's Keeper
Early in Genesis, Yahweh asks Cain where his brother Abel is. Cain, like a punk, replies, "I don't know. Am I my brother's keeper?" (P.S. He also killed Abel) God's response indicates that, yes, Cain is supposed to be his brother's keeper. But I wish the Almighty had been more explicit; that the story would have put it in all bold and all capital letters "YES! YOU ARE YOUR BROTHER'S KEEPER! AND YOUR SISTER'S TOO!" so that no one could ignore the reality that we are called to take care of one another.
I thought about Cain's flippant response when the news was announced that the president was pulling the country out of the Paris Climate Accord. The move was unfortunately not surprising as it fits his "America First" agenda and also considering his earlier statements that climate change is a hoax. Still, the move was infuriating.
I don't have the time to dive into the fact that the vast majority of scientists believe that climate change is real. Nor will I go into the simple reality that, regardless of what you think about climate change, it's probably a good idea to stop polluting as much as we do. I want to talk about being our brother's and sister's keeper.
A pundit on Twitter tweeted yesterday: "I worship Jesus, not Mother Earth. He calls us all to be good stewards of the planet, but doesn't mean I have to care about global warming." It's quite staggering that someone could simultaneously be so right (we are called to be good stewards of the planet) and so horribly, horribly wrong (that doesn't mean you have to care about global warming). He thought it was hilarious when people disagreed with him, so I know I am probably raving at the wind here.
But here's the deal, because I worship Jesus, I try to take seriously his call to love my neighbor as I love myself. Often I am terrible at it, but it is something I try. It is because I worship Jesus and take his words seriously that I think the issue of protecting the environment is important. Stewardship of earth is important not only because we are called to take care of this planet, its plants, and animals. Stewardship is important because this is where we live and there is nowhere within the next several light years that is going to give life like ours a chance.
Climate change can hurt our neighbors in a myriad of ways. It can lead to increased hurricane activity. It can lead to increased drought and therefore famine. If unchecked, it could hypothetically cook this planet like an egg and render inhospitable to life. So, yeah, it's about protecting the environment but it is also about taking measures to try to keep the marginalized from suffering even more (for the poor always receive the brunt of famines and natural disasters) and ultimately sustain life on this planet. It's not worshiping Mother Earth, it's loving the created beings that live on her.
Of course some will say that if there is climate change then God is responsible and only God can turn the tide. The other day, a congressman from Michigan said this very thing. He believes in climate change but believes that God will take care of it. To which I say, "What kind of lazy butt response to a terrible situation is that?"
"Well, that person is being robbed at gunpoint, but I'm sure the Lord will take care of it." "Well, there is a child starving in India, but God will handle it." What we do in this world--our actions and inaction--has consequences for good and for ill. Even if we cannot turn the tide, it is irresponsible to do nothing or, worse, keep throwing fuel onto the fire. We probably cannot eliminate poverty and hunger because there are too many selfish jerks in this world. Does that mean we shouldn't try? God calls us to join God in making this world a better place. Or do we not mean it when we pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven"?
The president scoffed and said that it was time to put American cities before Paris, France (which, you know, is just the name of the pact; it's not like nearly two hundred countries came together to declare they were going to save the City of Lights). Why does one have to be before the other? Can we not try to make life better in Detroit and in Nairobi?
It's like our society is playing this stupid game where some people think that supporting a cause means you are against all others. It's the people who hear "Black lives matter" and shout back "All lives matter!" It's people who hear that we're trying to help the environment and yell back "What about the people, treehugger?" It's people who hear that we care about what's going on in sub-Saharan African and cry out "America first!" You can care about all of the above! You can think that there are people groups who are unfairly treated without hating all other people! You can care about your neighbor next door and across the ocean! As I say to my small children repeatedly, "This isn't a competition!"
It's exhausting. And it's immensely frustrating when I hear Christians join the fray in this stupid game; worse yet, when they try to use their faith to prop the whole enterprise up. We follow Jesus who told us that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That and loving God are what our whole faith boils down to. Sidestepping those things when it's inconvenient is just as much a punk move as Cain asking "Am I my brother's keeper?" Yes. We are our brother's and sister's keeper. May we never forget it.